ONE Championship

When John Lineker signed with ONE Championship in 2019, bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes instantly felt as if was the only fight that interested him.

As it turned out, Lineker had to win three times in his new promotion before ONE finally booked the matchup.

Speaking on a recent episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Fernandes expressed a lack of surprise at Lineker’s early success in Asia, which includes wins over Muin Gafurov, Kevin Belingon, and Troy Worthen ahead of Friday’s “ONE: Lights Out” event in Singapore, and excitement at finally getting the fight he’s wanted since the UFC veteran came aboard.

“If the guy is good, he’s good,” Fernandes said. “It doesn’t surprise me. I don’t get surprised by anyone’s performances. I don’t think about it. He did his job, passed his tests, and now he’ll fight me. We’ll go to war. [People say,] ‘Oh, he beat this guy or that guy.’ I’d like to see someone win 10 straight at ONE Championship, because I did that.”

When asked what his strategy is going to be for the Lineker bout, Fernandes opted to go a different direction.

“I’ll tell you his strategy,” he responded. “His strategy is going to be trade with me, defend my takedowns, and try to beat me on the feet. That’s his plan. I’m a mixed martial artist, and I’ll let things flow the way they have to flow. I don’t go in there focused on defending takedowns or hitting him. I’ll fight in every corner we go.

“I have knockouts too. I knock people out from time to time. Let’s see how things go in there. He believes a lot in his chin, he believes a lot in his hands. That’s the great weapon he believes in. I believe in myself and in my skills. My roots are the grandmother of all martial arts, jiu-jitsu, and that’s a great root because it helps you use any other martial art.”

Lineker has won by submission in the past, with four tapouts to his credit, but 16 of his 34 professional wins have come by way of knockout, and it’s no secret which is his preferred path to victory.

“It’s a fact, right?” Fernandes said when asked if he considers Lineker a one-trick pony. “Look at his fights. He wants to knock the guy out. For example, he only has his hands and comes for the knockout, throwing everything he’s got.

“He believes [in his hands] and chin. And why does he believe in his chin? Because he hasn’t fought someone with a good counter. But I’ve seen him get rocked in several fights. He got rocked before. He went down, he was submitted. One guy put him to sleep in a fight. T.J. Dillashaw broke his jaw.”

When all is said and done, Fernandes said he believes he’ll goes down as one of the greatest bantamweights in MMA history. A former two-division DREAM champion, Fernandes also holds the record for most title defenses in ONE Championship history.

Asked if a victory over Lineker would prove he’d hang in the UFC, the longtime veteran guaranteed he would have become UFC champion had he signed with the company when he had the chance in 2012.

“I’m one of the best bantamweights in the world today,” Fernandes said. “[I’ve been fighting] since Fedor’s and Minotauro’s days, and I’m still here, working. I don’t need John Lineker to prove who I am. I am who I am. I’m an 11-time ONE Championship champion, a three-time jiu-jitsu world champion. I don’t need John Lineker to prove who I am.”

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